Posts Tagged ‘Neon Indian’

Best Music of 2015

January 14, 2016

2015 went in directions I never could have anticipated. Here is what I loved this year.

Best Albums of 2015

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1. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

What a triumph. After an almost ten year hiatus, to return and be this great? Sleater-Kinney are one of the greatest bands to ever exist and No Cities is chokablock with burners. Corin Tucker still wails, Carrie Brownstein is still a guitar god, and Janet Weiss is still one of the greatest drummersalive. This album is so powerful and true, it crushes and makes my heart ache with joy. Album of the year, band of your life.

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2. HEALTH – Death Magic

Like being engulfed in a supernova but you can hear a tender voice whispering sweet nothings as the flames consume your body. Imagine the noise of a collapsing building restructured with a melody. The proper follow up “Die Slow” demanded.

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3. Madeon – Adventure

Dance album of the year. Finally someone makes the sequel to Discovery that Daft Punk couldn’t be bothered with. Adventure has about five peak moments and never lets up. My most listened to album of 2015.
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4. Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION

Jepsen is now two for two for great albums that were ignored by the general public. Like KissE•MO•TION is front to back pop bangers, impeccably produced and performed. Jepsen is over here making fucking albums, ALBUMS! and people don’t even care. Hope she never stops, “Run Away With Me” and “Making The Most of the Night” already classics.

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5. Capsule – Wave Runner

Yasutaka Nakata first came on my radar when I was advised by many a twitter denizen to listen to Perfume’s 2013 album Level3. That album sounds like being executed by a thousand lazer synths at once. It’s incredible but eventually overwhelming. Nakata produces for Perfume but Capsule is his main band and he has a long career of various pop and dance meldings and experimentation. Wave Runner is actually straight ahead dance pop for the most part, but it’s more aggressive than what I am used to hearing. Every song sounds like it was made for a space launch.

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6. Drake – If You’re Reading This Its Too Late

I keep thinking I don’t like Drake that much and then I listen to this repeatedly for a month.

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7. Daniel Johns – Talk

The surprise of the year was the r&b album from the former lead singer of Silverchair. Mostly midtempo, Talk isn’t going from some white guy lover man schtick, instead displaying a wounded vulnerability that Silverchair tended to overpower with it’s alt rock thud. Johns is a confident crooner, and the production is wonderfully varied and unique.

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8. dumblonde – Dumblonde

The production shimmers and it sounds like the vocals were chopped and filtered and sprinkled around the tracks like ornaments. Danity Kane is the worst thing that created the best things.

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9. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

A double album without the feeling of being worn down by the length. Staples raps with fury and with a smirk and the beats are undeniable.

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10. Local H – Hey, Killer

Local H are one of my all time favorite bands. They are responsible for two of my all time favorite albums and their live show is without peer. Hey, Killer is a better than solid collection of crushers, peaking with “John The Baptist Blues”, which has one of those riffs that makes life worth living.

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11. Future – Dirty Sprite 2

Can a mumble and a gurgle be profound? I say yes. Future raps of opulence and excess overwhelmed by sadness. Is this guy ok? Someone check on Future!

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12. Janet Jackson – Unbreakable

One of the greatest to ever do it, still doing it. This is one of those front to back, bring a smile and bring a tear kinda albums.

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13. Girls’ Generation – Lion Heart

The accusing tone of “songs made by committee” holds less weight to me than say, a film made by committee. A great pop song can be written by someone alone, just flowing out of them as the muse hits. Or it can be made in the lab, tinkering so that the chorus is bigger and the verses are tighter and the whole package races out the door like a spaceship at lift off. That is what this album delivers, carefully crafted and molded pop/dance without a speck of dust or grit. In a way, it is perfect.

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14. Failure – The Heart is a Monster

My senior year of college I became a Ken Andrews obsessive after hearing the album Make Believe he released under the On moniker. I went back and got all his other shit, did an embarrassing interview with Andrews for my college radio station(the recording is in my basement somewhere, safe from us all), devoured his other solo and side project work (Year of the Rabbit is a used bin staple, but it rocks), and of course meeting other Ken Andrews fanatics in my travels. The uniting principle for all of us Andrewsheads is his first band Failure and their 1996 opus Fantastic Planet, one of those cult pieces that burrows deep inside a small audience and has them still talking about and obsessing some 20 years later. The Heart is a Monster is a direct sequel to FP and it ended up being even better than anyone could have hoped. For the hardcore Andrewsheads it is a fulfillment of long held hopes and dreams.

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15. Fall Out Boy – American Beauty/American Psycho

FOB’s strange pop comeback barrels on, and for every strange left turn decision that I have trouble reconciling (Big Sean on the last album, the Munster’s sample on this one), they still deliver some career best work(“Jetpack Blues”, “Fourth of July”) and make a song with SebastiAn (“American Beauty/American Psycho”) that sounds just a like a SebastiAn song. So, good. And the remix album for this was not half bad either.

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16. Empress Of – Me

This one reminded me of when Bjork made albums with beats and melodies you could dance to and play over and over again.

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17. Destroy This Place – Animal Rites

Not to discount the previous Destroy This Place albums, but this is the first one that sounds like a real, fully fleshed out Band. The influences are obvious but the tracks aren’t boneheaded, and if you thought the last Foo Fighters album was a dud this one picks up the slack. “No Apologies” is a particular triumph as it is one of the great closing tracks. Great closing tracks are so few and far between! These guys are on a roll.

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18. Dr. Dre – Compton

Dre didn’t owe us shit but he dropped this anyway. I guess there is a backlash to this album but it knocks and I didn’t think Dre was into knocking anything anymore.

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19. Neon Indian – VEGA INTL. Night School

This thing has a weird gurgle sound on the keyboard for the first half but the songs themselves are solid and the back half is all hits. Best thing Alan has done since “Parking Lot Nights”.

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20. Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down

My kneejerk response was too slight, but it has grown on me with repeated listens and the riffs are strong. I was also foolish in not realizing that “I Love You All The Time” is a new one for the canon.

 

Honorable Mentions

Grimes – Art Angels
John Carpenter- Lost Themes
Shamir – Ratchet
Jack Ü – Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü

 

Best Songs of 2015 

Cool For The Summer

 

 

  1. “Cool for the Summer” by Demi Lovato: “Cool for the Summer” was my most listened to song this past year. It is a perfect piece of pop design, with the kind of blow-out-the-speakers chorus that Max Martin has become the master of creating. Demi Lovato imbues the track with the obvious sexual fire but also a yearning humanity that I don’t get from someone like Katy Perry. Other artists perform, but Lovato owns this track. There are many ways to sell the “bodytype” line, Lovato made it legendary.
  2. “Back Together” by Robin Thicke featuring Nicki Minaj: Robin Thicke is the most hated man in pop music, and all he did was be kinda skeevy and have a drug problem. In comparison to Justin Bieber and R. Kelly, he’s practically a saint. So this comeback track failed to do just that, but it still stands a supreme piece of production and writing by, yup, Max Martin. My wife and I listen to this song a lot.
  3. “A New Wave” by Sleater-Kinney: This is the feeling of infinite possibilities, set to music.
  4. “Run Away With Me” by Carly Rae Jepsen: Jepsen bringing that sax fire. Bowie would be proud.
  5. “Cool On Fire” by Daniel Johns: The best groove on the album.
  6. “10 Bands” by Drake: Fuck it, let’s not even discuss it, man.
  7. “tender green life” by dumblonde: The vocals are pitched up almost to a chirp, and the coo over the chorus is inspired. The whole thing sounds like “You know what would be crazy? If we did THIS!” But 11 times.
  8. “John the Baptist Blues” by Local H: Monster riff milked for 6 glorious minutes. Rock n roll heaven.
  9. “L.A. LOOKS” by HEALTH: The closest HEALTH will get to being poppy, and the closest to a love song. “It’s not love but I still want you.”
  10. “Sign” by Girls’ Generation: On an album of pop perfection, this one is the most perfect.
  11. “Solid” by Ty Dolla $ign featuring Babyface: No drums! Just the guitar and that hook. When the notes go higher and then ring in unison, ohhhhhhhhh baby.
  12. “Keep Searchin'” by R. Kelly: R. Kelly is probably a sexual predator. That said, he still possesses one of the greatest voices on the planet. It’s tough. His new album is ok, but this bonus track is some wonderful throwback shit. Almost sounds like Michael Jackson near the finale. Oh, Michael was problematic too.
  13. “To Ü” by Jack Ü featuring AlunaGeorge: Best drop of the year.
  14. “Wolves” by Kate Pierson: Kate Pierson has a hall of fame voice. Her work in the B-52s is peerless. Her solo album is a fun jaunt, and this track is it’s peak.
  15. “All Day” by Kanye West featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney: The definitive version is live with flame throwers, but the studio version is also fire.
  16. “B Boy” by Meek Mill featuring Big Sean and A$AP Ferg: What? Big Sean on a good song? 2015 was out of control. Best song that Meek Mill kept off his album.
  17. “Coffee” by Miguel: I thought the new Miguel album was a disappointment(Please no more California Songs) but “Coffee” was a strong single and closest to the sound I loved on his last album.
  18. “Right Here, Right Now” by Giorgio Moroder featuring Kylie Minogue: Moroder dropped the ball on his album but “Right Here” is a flames collaboration with Kylie, who tends to pull greatness from her producers. If the rest of album wasn’t a stinkfish I’d say make a whole project together.
  19. “Nightclub Amnesia” by Ratatat: Every Ratatat album has a song that makes you forget that Ratatat albums are largely boring filler.
  20. “Dreamin’ Boy” by CAPSULE: “Are you ready?”

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Music Journal, December 10th, 2015

December 10, 2015

 

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Confident by Demi Lovato

My beloved “Cool for the Summer” is one of the few bright moments on this surprisingly serious album. In fact, “Cool” is an outlier thematically, with just about every track branching from the title song’s empowerment message of confidence against naysayers and heartbreak. Lovato is coming from a real place, and I commend that, but by the time you get to the ode to her dead father* you’re going to be scrambling for something more upbeat, like say one her early albums. Great voice but this just isn’t much fun.

*Songs about Demi Lovato’s father are an expected feature on every album, like how every U2 album features a song about God.

 

Revival by Selena Gomez
Great production, terrible lyrics. Gomez has a nice husk to her voice even though she packs more groaner lines than I thought imaginable. Much of the time, Gomez sings the way Bjork talks, if you can imagine that. Selena Gomez might just have a really interesting, strange album in her just yet.

 

E•MO•TION by Carly Rae Jepsen

This one was a real grower, every listen getting better and better. It has more in common with 2012’s Kiss than anyone wants to admit. That album was a rock solid pop record, and this one is even better, though “I Really Like You” turned out to be a big whiff. “Run Away With Me” is an instant classic, “Boy Problems” sounds like Taylor Swift shade, the whole thing is a blast. A lot was made about working with supposed left field indie producers like Dev Hynes but this album doesn’t sound that different, production-wise, from other pop records. If anything, it sounds better than I expected considering that she didn’t work with Max Martin and his ilk. Saying you didn’t work with those people like it is some sort of badge of honor makes no sense. Those guys make great hits! But I digress, this album rules.

 

Big Grams by Big Grams 

Great for Phantogram’s career. Not for anyone else. Was going for chocolate + peanut butter, ended up with vinegar chips and vanilla ice cream.

 

I Changed A Lot by DJ Khaled

Come for the Future features but leave before the reggae dancehall track. These albums are consistent to a fault. By track ten it feels like the production is stomping on your face with a steel toe boot, leaving a “We The Best” imprint in your cheek.

 

As If by !!!

!!! are now eight years and three albums removed from their career peak, Myth Takes. That album sounded like a band opening their arms and letting in the world, while subsequent recordings Strange Weather, Isn’t It? and THR!!!ER have ended up sounding reserved and almost conservative. As If is no Myth Takes Part 2 but it is a step in the right direction. It struts harder, gets weirder, and seems just on the edge of really, truly losing it right as it closes. Don’t stop, you guys.

 

Purpose by Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber is an uninteresting vocal presence. On Purpose, Bieber sings nearly the entire album in a flat stage whisper and when he does aim for a high note, it ain’t much to tell your friends. The production is consistent with the Diplo/Skrillex/Major Lazer sound of the summer, repeated and remixed until it all starts to sound like the same chirpy bird sample has taken up residence in your ear canal.

The promo cycle for this album was all about redemption, but for most of Purpose Justin Bieber sounds unrepentant and passive aggressive. The first line of “Sorry” is “You gotta go and get / Angry at all of my honesty / You know I try but I don’t do too well with apologies”.  Way to put it all on us, Bieber. This woe is me theme pervades the album. On “I’ll Show You”, JB pulls the old poor little rich boy line. “Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing / When the pressure’s coming down like lightning / It’s like they want me to be perfect / When they don’t even know that I’m hurting”. Wow! The lack of self-awareness is about the only thing I can recommend about this album. Song after song of this shit. The gall!  When Justin Bieber isn’t apologizing while knocking bowls off the table he’s worried about the children of the world. I know this because he seriously, truthfully, I am not fucking kidding, starts a dance track(!) with the lyrics “What about the children?” I’m kinda in awe.

But seriously fuck this guy.

 

Get Weird by Little Mix

This is what kids in 3rd grade call “edgy”. Terrible album.

 

Bang 3, Pt. 2 by Chief Keef

Chief Keef is actually an incredibly consistent artist. Bang 3 was fire, this is fire, Chief Keef is forever on fire.

 

Unbreakable by Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson is a legend. Her career was sadly derailed by prudes, but the quality of the work never really dipped. Damita Jo is flames! Now with Unbreakable, Jackson delivers more wonderful songs, perhaps not as sexually driven as previous albums, but still undeniably personal. Working again with Jam & Lewis, Unbreakable is a front to back album, not a dud to be found. We are not worthy.

 

Vega INTL. Night School by Neon Indian

The first half of Vega INTL. Night School sounds like it was recorded underwater. The synths bloop and bleep like they’ve been submerged in goo and are trying their best to make a sound. I hated it on the first listen and it has grown on me but a version without the bloopy soaked effect would definitely sound better. The latter half of the album is pretty much fire, best thing Neon Indian has ever done, still not as good as the old Ghosthustler tracks and demos this guy started with, but that is my problem.